The city of Le Center could see some significant technology upgrades through CARES Act dollars.
At the Sept. 9 City Council meeting, Le Center officials discussed ways to spend the $190,000 the city had received in CARES Act funding. The councilors have focused on technological and safety improvements for city hall and public facilities, but they have not yet made a decision on how to spend the federal monies.
New laptops make up some of the technology being considered for purchase. The COVID-19 expenses committee, made up of Mayor Josh Frederickson, Councilor Nathan Hintz and City Administrator Chris Collins discussed investing in Microsoft Surface Pro laptops, a secured computer server and email upgrades for employees to enable city staff to work remotely.
“In the event we have to go into another lockdown/shutdown type of mode we won’t have to use the same equipment which creates a security risk and it also will give employees the opportunity to work remotely if the city council decides to facilitate that,” said Frederickson.
New technology could also improve remote access for residents as well. Officials proposed installing a projector and monitor in the council chambers and updating the Le Center website to livestream city council meetings so that residents may access them online. The project would be done with input from Tri-City United Schools Director of Technology Carl Menk.
Tech upgrades could extend to public bathroom facilities as well. A contactless bathroom experience at city hall and public parks is being proposed through hands-free toilets and urinals, motion-sensing towel and soap dispensers and motion-detecting lights. These changes are intended to improve public safety and reduce the potential for viral transmission.
Other safety measures being considered include new plexiglass barriers in the council chambers and the front desk at city hall, PPE for city departments and emergency management and individual election booths.
CARES dollars could also bring back a popular event in Le Center: junk days. The citywide cleanup is held every two years since 2016 to help residents get rid of their trash, but the clutter collection was scrapped earlier this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The event wasn’t budgeted for by the city, so it may be possible for the city to put on a junk days cleanup with CARES dollars.
To put on junk days, the city will need help from a private contractor, but the city’s recycling service provider LJP has told the city they could not do one this year. However, Collins indicated that Waste Management Mankato was interested in junk days.
While the city is focused on using CARES dollars to fund technology and safety improvements, the money may also be used to recapture salaries for quarantined employees and employees that serve on the front lines like police.
“The interpretation of the CARES Act has been an ongoing thing,” said City Attorney Jason Moran. “A few weeks ago ther Department of Treasury did come out with a guidance on this that law enforcement is presumptively combating COVID by interpreting and enforcing various executive orders that we have in place.”
Le Center has until Nov. 15 to use its CARES funding. Federal dollars are restricted to items that have not been budgeted for and costs incurred responding to the coronavirus.